"What do you think? Pretty nifty, I'd say," Desmond comments and looks up to the – the monument he'd made. He's not entirely sure what he intended it to be in the beginning – the most he had for an idea was to make something to mark the occasion, to leave some sort of memorial. Here lies the last of the Untold Sacrifice, something like that. A statue would've been nice.
What it came out as was the most vague piece of modern art he's ever seen. It's built up from trash and discarded furniture, from oil barrels, from syringes, from magazines with plastic covers and CD-ROMs and computer bits, and just about every bit of non-biodegradable trash you'd be able to find in most landfills. There's even a part of a car in there, he thinks, plasticy-perfect and rusted all at once.
Desmond is pretty sure he'd begun with stone and metal. Might've been concrete. Things tended to blur a little when the – the Building of Monuments took over, and the end results were never what he planned. Either way, the result, while the texture is nothing like what he planned, it… it looks about right.
A fifteen foot statue of Altaïr, with a hood made of woven plastic and armour made from chain link fence, stands in the middle of an otherwise untouched forest, with no sign of how it got here, who made it or why. It's just the sort of thing the Forgotten likes – mysterious monuments with all kinds of creepy implications and no explanations. Desmond has made – several of them, over the last year, some intentionally, some not so much. This, he thinks… this is one of his better works.
"To the Forgotten Sacrifice, to the Codex, and to Altaïr Ibn-La'Ahad," Desmond says and bows with a flourish. "Not quite as pretty as the marble statue in the basement of the Auditore villa, but hell, it'll last just as long." He lifts a plastic bottle of coke in toast. "To you. All of you. Mad bastards, the lot of you."
Something shifts around his foot as he drinks his toast – ugh, the coke's gone all flat – and Desmond looks down. Cat is rubbing her body against his ankles, making insistent little mrp noises. "Yeah, I'll take that as approval," Desmond says and picks her up. "I think we're done here. Happy anniversary to me, huh?"
Cat rubs her head against his, and Desmond grins, letting her settle on his shoulders as he gives the monument another, satisfied look. A group of kids on a school trip would stumble on the statue eventually, and it would make a lifelong impact on at least a few of them – would be fun to see what came out of it, in ten, twenty years. For now, though, he's done.
"That's that, then," Desmond murmurs, scratching Cat's chin. "I think I'm done with the States for a bit, time to move on, maybe stop by London. What do you say, cargo ship or a tanker? Hm? Do you think you would like to be a ship's cat?"
She bites his finger, so, that's probably a no. "Alright. Let's go find you something to eat."
Desmond moves about mostly by foot these days. It's partially because things tend to break down around him – and you can give only so many cars so many oil line failures before you start feeling a little guilty – and partially he just… likes walking. Plus, it gives him the chance to examine nature – and occasionally add a little compounded human influence in it, where it feels about right. So he gets to build things and sculpt things, and he gets to get his steps in. And if occasionally he runs into someone who could do with a little trip down the Apocalypse Alley, well.
When crossing water though, he prefers ships. There's something nice about ships. Maybe it's the age of the technology that went into them, the long history – or maybe planes are just too efficient. Who knows. Plus, ships are easier to sneak onto.
He probably should've looked into whose ship he snuck onboard.
"Oh," the Captain says, finding him on the masthead. "It's you."
"Hi," Desmond says, Cat sitting snug in his lap, purring away. "It's you. Why is it that I always meet you guys on ship masts?"
"You guys?" Peter Lukas asks, wry, and steps down to stand beside him on the narrow piece of metal. "Who else have you met on a ship's mast?"
"Simon Fairchild – it was over a year ago, though," Desmond says and considers him. "Didn't know Lonely gives people the ability to fly – seems more like the Vast's thing."
"The One Alone gives me the ability to move around," Peter muses, looking at him consideringly. "And to move others, if I so choose. And you, Mr. Miles, don't have a ticket."
"Simon Fairchild threatened to toss me overboard too," Desmond muses. "I don't know what would happen if you tossed me into the sea. I bet it wouldn't stay this nice and clean, though. Also, if you hurt Cat, I am gonna hurt you."
Peter considers him and then the animal in Desmond's lap. "I think your cat has mange."
Desmond looks down and sighs. "Yeah, she's got mites, fleas too – I got her on medication," Desmond says – though of course as long as Cat was with him, it probably wouldn't be getting that much better. He might not be the avatar of Corruption, but… the Forgotten works a little too well with all the others. "She's gonna be fine. Aren't you, sweetheart?"
Peter considers him, and there's a trickle of the Lonely around them, mist whipping in the sea breeze. "Would be just what you deserved, to take the cat and throw you into the ocean," he says. "You, who betrayed the One Alone."
Desmond blinks and looks up at him. "What, you think there's loyalty to this shit?"
Peter scoffs. "You were stronger than me, and you just let it slip, and why? To serve a god no one even believes exists yet?"
Desmond tilts his head. "Are you trying to make me feel guilty?" he asks curiously. "I was never an avatar of the Lonely – I was just full of it."
"Still are, by the sound of it," Peter mutters and looks away, sighing. "The One Alone is a complicated one to serve. Serving it weakens you as much as it strengthens you. Distances you… makes you not care…"
Desmond watches him and then shrugs, looking down to Cat. She doesn't look that bad anymore. For a stray, she's… doing alright. He's keeping her fed. She's fine. "It works best when you have someone around to compare to, doesn't it?" Desmond comments. "Someone to see you. To observe how lonely you are."
Peter blows out a breath of mist. It's a while before he speaks. "Do you… do you know what they did with his body?"
"Bodies, and no," Desmond says. "I never asked. Considering the crap you can do with the bodies of avatars, though, I don't think they kept them."
"Probably for the best," Peter mutters and sighs, the Lonely increasing, thickening. "Right. We'll drop you off in the UK, and then I better not see you on my ship again, Desmond Miles."
"Deal," Desmond says, playing with Cat's paws until Peter Lukas steps back into the mist and disappears. "Lonely people," he murmurs and presses a kiss on Cat's head. "He could do with a pet too."
The game store Desmond had visited well over a year before has gone under since then – and no one's taken over it since. They'd left the cardboard cut out of the Egyptian Assassin in the store – it'd fallen over and is lying on the floor, just barely visible past the peeling decals on the windows. Desmond peers inside, breathing in the abandoned feeling of it, and then sighs.
He should really look into how Assassin's Creed is doing these days. He's pretty sure the first five games don't really exist anymore, but… he hasn't looked into it. There's a weird sort of masochistic power to that, to not knowing, not confirming it. Like, so as long as he doesn't look, some part of those people, those stories still… exists. As long as he doesn't know for sure, he can pretend. And in their world, the act of pretence had hell of a lot of power on its own.
Well, at least the sequels are still around, he knows that much... even if the Assassins in them don't even look like Assassins anymore. Or behave like them. Or adhere to the Creed… or anything, really.
Not his place to judge, anymore.
With Cat sleeping tucked away in his hood, Desmond shoves his hands into his pockets and heads away – time to find a place with some good takeout, and after that, to the Institute.
They've cleaned the place up – like, power washed the whole building. It's definitely cleaner and whiter than the last Desmond had seen it. No spider webs to be seen anymore, the sign of THE MAGNUS INSTITUTE stands clean and gleaming above the entrance. The whole place looks almost welcoming.
Desmond heads inside, utterly ignoring the no pets allowed sign at the door. The entrance hall is, as per usual, almost vacant, except for Rosie, who is sitting behind the counter, knitting. "Hey, Rosie."
"Hm? Oh, it's you – hello Desmond," Rosie says, a mix of wary and warm. "Here to see Jon?"
"And Martin, if he's here?"
"Should be, I haven't seen him leave," Rosie says and motions him to go ahead. "You know where to find them."
"That I do. Have a good one, Rosie."
He heads for Martin's office first, mainly because it's closer, and also because he has business with him first. Plus, the guy gets antsy if Desmond shows up unannounced in Jon's office, and Desmond figures he had enough stress in his life without Desmond adding to it needlessly.
The few people in the way give him wary looks, and behind him Desmond can hear a few going, "Is that a cat?" Which is weirdly gratifying. Better than them going, "Isn't that the uncanny valley dude?"
He should travel with animals more often. Apparently he gets more sympathy that way.
"Knock knock," Desmond calls, coming to Martin's office door, which hangs open, not quite inviting with the Lonely hanging about, but trying to be. "Express delivery from the States. You eat sushi, right?"
"What, sushi? – Desmond," Martin says, looking up from his computer. "Oh... When did you come back?"
"Just today – hitched a ride with your former boss, actually. Lovely guy, threatened to dump me into the ocean," Desmond says, slipping in and lifting the plastic bag. "Which might've been an influencing factor in the sushi. So how about it? I got a bunch."
"You – mean Peter?" Martin asks and leans back a little. "Why are you in touch with Peter?"
"I'm not – just stowed away on board his ship," Desmond says and sighs internally, setting the bag on Martin's desk and taking a container out at random. Shouldn't have said anything, now Martin is going to be fretting about it all the time Desmond is here. "Here, have at it. Also, do you like cats?"
"What?" Martin asks, wary, looking at the plastic clamshell container of rolls and whatnot. "What about cats? Also, why did you bring sushi, again?"
"I always bring food, it's my thing! And what do you mean, what about cats? Do you like them – it's not a trick question," Desmond says a little helplessly. "Cat, animal, furry, occasionally an asshole –"
"Yes, fine, I like them well enough – what about cats?"
Desmond turns around, and Cat, obligingly, pops her head out of the hood and yawns. "You're not allergic, right?" Desmond asks.
"No, I'm not – you – have a cat," Martin says.
"Kinda," Desmond says and wiggles her out of the hood, over his shoulder and into his arms. "Anyway, she's got mites and fleas and a kidney condition, and things don't… get better when I'm around. I was going to ask Jon to look after her, but honestly, I think you need a cat to chill with more than Jon does, these days."
Martin blinks, and it's not much, but the surprise is overcoming the suspicion. "You want to leave your cat with me?" he asks, confused.
"Lonely people need pets," Desmond says and deposits the cat on Martin's desk. "Her name is Catastrophe, but I just call her Cat – hang on, I have her meds here –" he digs the medicine packets out of his pockets. "She needs to be washed with like – dish soap, to kill the fleas, there's this soap in the States that works for it, I don't know if the UK has it –"
"Wait wait wait – I didn't agree – you can't just give me your cat –"
"Look at her, Martin," Desmond says and gives Cat cheek scratches. "She's a baby, and someone just forgot her in a park," that someone being him, "She needs tender loving care. And flea baths."
Martin makes a face, but he does look at her. "And you can't take care of her because the Extinction doesn't exactly improve things, hm?" he muses and sighs as Cat pushes out of Desmond's hold and starts to explore the desk. "You really named her Cat?"
"Not my proudest moment, I admit, but now she doesn't want to answer to anything else," Desmond says and bounces on the balls of his feet. "So you'll take her? You can feed the sushi to her, if you don't like it."
Martin hums, looking between the cat and the container. "She doesn't have rabies, does she?"
Desmond feigns an offended gasp.
Martin sighs and finally gives in and offers his hand for Cat to sniff. "It better not be forever," he says firmly as she takes a sniff and then begins nosing at the sushi container, obviously smelling the fish. Martin looks at her and then sighs again, opening the box to fetch a bit of salmon for her.
Score, Desmond thinks and grins. "Just as long as she needs to get better," he says innocently. It's totally forever. "So, onto more important matters – how's Jon?"
Jon is more or less fine. Little on the peckish side and between statements, but not as bad as Desmond had feared. He's also jealous.
"You gave Martin a cat?" he asks as Desmond enters his office.
"Technically, Martin is looking after her for me," Desmond says cheerfully. "I'm gonna win him over, Jon, you just watch me. Also here, I brought sushi."
"Yes, I see! I don't know why you think Martin hates you, Desmond. Martin doesn't hate anything," Jon sighs, shaking his head as Desmond heads to the tea table, setting the bag of takeout down on it before taking a seat in one of the armchairs.
"He's concerned and thinks I'm a bad influence and a dangerous threat, which is even worse," Desmond mutters and casts a morose look at the security camera sitting in the corner of the room – Martin's eye upon them. "He thinks I'm creepy, Jon."
"We're all a little creepy," Jon says, amused and stands up with a stretch, rubbing at his neck. "I think he's used to it."
Easy for him to say. Jon is an endearing sort of creepy, which, while a bit unsettling if you don't like being watched, is easy enough to handle. Desmond is the kind of creepy that makes people aware of human failings and flaws and makes them feel interior, and he hasn't yet met anyone who finds that fun. Aside from other avatars, who don't feel it as much.
"Anyway," Desmond says, shifting where he's sitting, uncomfortable. "Anything interesting happened while I was gone?"
"Well, Melanie learned a Dark version of echolocation, we think? She can feel shadows around here – or the light, and its absence," Jon comments, going around the desk. "Which makes meeting her in a dark corridor somewhat unsettling. Daisy meanwhile has mastered the Eyes – she told me to tell you thank you for the tips, by the way, apparently it helped, whatever you said."
"That's great – so it worked? She can Hunt things now, not people?"
"While not as nourishing is hunting for people, or monsters, it sustains her," Jon agrees. "We're looking into ways to draw her further under the umbrella of the Beholding, but for now we've found something of a tolerable balance," Jon agrees, moving to join Desmond by the tea table.
Desmond watches him move, leaning his cheek onto his knuckles. Yeah, definitely hungry – the way Jon's approaching him is downright predatory. "And how have you been, Jon?" Desmond asks, smiling. "How are things for you?"
"I've been – better. Getting used to it all now," Jon says, staring at him raptly. "I even held a conference the other week, a small one, with Basira – the Common Forms of Manifestations and How to Contain Them."
"Sounds exciting," Desmond hums, while opening a container and holding it out to him.
"It really wasn't, no one in the audience took us seriously," Jon says, accepting the sushi and sitting down across from him. He's not even bothering to blink, and Desmond can feel his other eyes opening, staring. "Basira seemed to enjoy the challenge, however – I think she's becoming something of an ambassador between us and various law enforcement institutions."
"Right up her alley," Desmond muses and gives him a look. "Go on, then. I know you want to."
There's a click of a tape recorder, and Jon breathes out, "Statement of Desmond Miles, regarding the End of the World. Statement taken direct from subject on April 6th, 2019. Statement begins."
Martin is watching them through the security camera, as the compulsion takes Desmond over and he smiles even wider.
There's really nothing quite like being Known.